Letters to Asylum

Letters to Asylum


August 17, 1960

Dear Sir:

The fall rages on with no regard for grieving mothers.
We are lonesome on this hill without her. Everybody cries.
Soon we’ll have blood red leaves scattered across the pastures.

Regarding my daughter, how is she getting along?
It’s so hot the dogs’ tongues wag out of their thirsty mouths.
The creek bed lays dry as a bone. Please tell me if you

think we should visit. Just piddled two hours in the beans,
winter’ll be here before we know it. Everything dead, gone.
Don’t want to upset her in any way. Would very much like

to talk to her doctor about her recovery. Her daddy
sulks through the field to feed the cows. I want to bring her
more clothes. Please, at once, let me know how she is doing.

Yours truly,
Christine Wilkinson


September 22

Dear Doctor,
I would like to know how my daughter’s getting along.
She seemed to be doing nicely last weekend—smiled, talked.
There come a preacher, Thursday last, to pray for Dorsie.

It’s cutting season down here on the creek, her daddy’s
out in the tobacco, hanging his fears on that post.

Each time I visit my daughter she wants to come home.
How much longer, please, will it be? I worry so much.
Do you think she will be able to hold out at work?

When I ain’t pacing the floor, I’m piecing on a quilt.
Mondays, I day-work a bit for a woman teacher,
Keeps money in my apron pocket, my hands busy.

You think she will be able to come home on a trial?
If you do not wish to write me, please leave information.
I’ll check at the front desk when I arrive on Sunday.

I kindly appreciate what you’ve done for her. She’s
making plans for the future. My heart goes out to all.

Christine Wilkinson


October 17, 1960

Dear Doctor,

Regarding my daughter, I visit her quite often
but I don’t seem to get to see you. Would you tell me

how she is getting along? She still wants to come home.
There is something special about early October,

Garden’s coming to a close, the air is dry and crisp.
Seems like every living thing has a new coat to wear.

We got pumpkins orange as sunup down here. Silas’s out
threshing cane. We’ll be making sorghum before too long.

I’ll bring y’all some if that’s alright. We would like Dorsie
here for Christmas or she’ll be struck with disappointment.

Her sister in Danville said she would come talk with you
but in case she hasn’t, please let me know what you think.

I urge Dorsie to be nice each time I visit her.
Of course she is spoiled to death. I hope she’s lots better.

Yours truly,
Christine Wilkinson

Crystal Wilkinson, a USA Artist Fellow, is the award-winning author of The Birds of Opulence (winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence), Water Street and Blackberries, Blackberries. Nominated for the John Dos Passos Award, the Orange Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, she has received recognition from the Yaddo Foundation, Hedgebrook, The Vermont Studio Center for the Arts, The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and others. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and her short stories, poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including most recently in The Kenyon Review, STORY, Agni Literary Journal, Emergence, Oxford American and Southern Cultures.  She currently teaches at the University of Kentucky where she is Associate Professor of English in the MFA in Creative Writing Program.

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